By Patricia A. Book, Ph.D.
Our community is self-governed by an elected Board of five members with staggered three-year terms. We are guided by our Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (C, C&Rs), By-Laws as amended and Rules, Regulations, Architectural Guidelines, Enforcement Policy and Procedure. These are published on our Website and importantly define the notice and information sharing requirements between the Board and our homeowners. We have processes for any changes in these documents with a very high standard of community participation in any proposed changes in our C, C&Rs. Our Board has set transparency as a high priority in carrying out our fiduciary duty to our community.
Creating Opportunities for Engagement
We have formally chartered a Pond Committee and a Social Connections Committee to engage additional volunteer expertise in our community in addition to our established Architectural Control Committee (ACC). There is a Board liaison to our newly chartered committees as well as a Board liaison with our landscape contractor. The meetings of our Board and Committees are open to all homeowners and minutes are published on our website.
The Pond Committee’s purpose is to develop a recommended management master plan for the Association’s pondin part to mitigate sedimentation with an eye to delaying or deferring costly dredging. Volunteers have expertise in pond management, engineering, and related fields and have become “pond stewards” as well, visible with their blue vests educating homeowners about the pond, catch and release fishing, fish species, etc.
The Social “Connections” Committee's purpose is to facilitate interaction among Willow Spring homeowners through a variety of planned social events designed to appeal to a wide cross section of the Willow Springs residents. The intended result is improved neighborhood camaraderie, fellowship and sense of community. Pool parties, garden tours, neighborhood day out, and a host of activities are developed by this Committee to have neighbors get to know each other and have a good time.
The Pond and Social Connections Committee have now formed a bond, co-organizing a Fishing Derby for youth in our neighborhood.
These opportunities for community engagement go beyond the specific events and tasks the Committees are charged with undertaking. We believe they provide opportunities for neighbors to get to know each other, open communication channels, share resources, and improve overall sense of belonging. We believe, for example, that the results could affect behaviors of speeding on the neighborhood streets—when you know the kids and the retirees and families in a neighborhood, aren’t you less likely to speed by them on your way to work or to an important engagement? Another benefit of community engagement is that we do want our homeowners to hear from their volunteer board and their neighbors about the good things happening in our community. We don’t want to be perceived as the police or tax collectors only heard from at a time of violation or when assessments are due.
Transparency Creates Support
The Board meets bi-monthly at our Club House but calls special meetings of the community to get feedback on a range of issues, from review of a draft Reserve Study, to traffic calming, or what to do about emerald ash borer treatments. We conduct surveys gathering information about perceptions of the quality of life in our community and beliefs and attitudes about a host of issues that come to the Board’s attention from individual homeowners. We share these results and use them to form plans and set goals for our community. We send out email blasts to alert the community to mosquito spraying, e.g., or upcoming events. We post signage to announce events. We conduct periodic Reserve Studies or Reserve Updates and share these with the community and revise them based on feedback received.
We called a special annual meeting to explain to the community our need to contribute more to our Reserves. Our prior Reserve Study (2015) had us at 23% funded, a poor condition. At regular annual meetings, we started to build the case for future needs of what is now an aging infrastructure with comparative bids explaining large ticket items for future planning. These include pond dredging, irrigation pump replacements, fencing maintenance and replacement, pool resurfacing, among other capital projects. The Board wisely took the time to educate our homeowners about future needs, explaining how to interpret an appropriate level of Reserve funding, and provided a five-year budget plan on what it would take to achieve a stronger Reserve foundation. We also did an annual assessment benchmark study of comparable communities that showed our assessments were on the low side for the amenities we enjoy. Because of the communication, information sharing, and transparency, the community overwhelming voted for a one time assessment increase of 20% (using the process required in our C, C&Rs), followed by four years of 6% increases (the maximum permitted in our C, C&Rs) to achieve a stronger Reserve and to maintain and preserve our community common elements to a high standard. Our 2018 Reserve Study Update had us at 47.4% funded, a much improved medium condition.
In summary, we follow our governing documents, communicate plans and decisions, and engage our homeowners in major decisions affecting our community. The Willow Springs Community is much like other self-governed homeowner communities in Colorado. We have a high level of satisfaction with the quality of life in our community and the Board enjoys considerable support from the community. It’s a two-way street. The community also expects us to enforce the rules, fairly and without prejudice. We’ve hired a professional management company to enforce our community standards with good result. A community as large as ours requires, and can afford, contracted management services to support the administrative, financial, and legal issues Homeowner Association (HOA) Boards face. We were careful to choose a management company that has achieved "Accredited Association Management Company" (AAMC®) designation from the national Community Associations Institute (CAI) with licensed association business managers. The Willow Springs Executive Board now holds Board membership in the Community Associations Institute—Rocky Mountain Chapter (CAI-RMC) as part of its commitment to ongoing education to better enable us serve our community.
“Patricia A. Book, Ph.D. is President of the Willow Springs Community Association Executive Board in Fort Collins, Colorado. Willow Springs has 460 units—single family, patio homes and condominiums—with 33 acres of green space, over 500 trees, a pool and club house, tennis courts, playground and pond stocked with fish for catch and release recreation. The community was established in 1995.”